The Separation of Church and Hate
The ‘old Ruthie’ would have grabbed my Bible off the table and pointed to verses where God says divorce is a sin. I would have begged her to reconsider and rise up and shout, “God hates divorce!” like I grew up hearing church-people say. Three years ago, I would have made sure she understood from me what God felt about her considering this choice.
I used to be very concerned with fixing people, altering their behavior, making sure their sin list wasn’t too lengthy.
But now? I try to stake my flag in the camp of love. On my couch that day, I could have made a point—but would I have made a difference?
Let me explain. One of my all-time favorite talks from Andy Stanley is “Separation of Church & Hate”. In this sermon, Stanley shows how it’s easier to make a point; to adopt a policy; to put up a billboard or hand out a pamphlet. But making a difference is messier. It requires relating to people with whom we may not agree. But that is exactly what Jesus modeled.
Point-makers drive people away; difference-makers get down in the mud with hurting people.
It’s easy to quote a Bible verse, stay away from certain people, or be ‘against’ something—but making a difference in someone’s life—loving radically despite one’s choices—that’s the hard work. The work that makes all the difference.
I grew up in a family where it seemed we were against everything: gay people, the newspaper, television, even democrats and UGA football. Many churches get the reputation for being against certain sins, instead of for say helping people in need or loving the broken.
I see too many living in an almost paranoia about sin and retreating to safe, little bubbles where we keep track of sin records and talk about accountability.
It comes naturally to give you five reasons why a certain behavior or lifestyle is wrong. But we can spend all our energy against behaviors, people, and organizations OR we can simply love. I’ve slowly learned the distinction between making a point and making a difference—and difference makers are the ones who make relational evangelism work. People don’t want to become followers of Jesus when we make it look like a list of rules.
This perspective is why Andy Stanley and Pete Wilson don’t stand up in the pulpit and preach against homosexuality. Not because they don’t think it’s wrong, but because they may have a lot of people cheering them on for a controversial message, but all the people cheering are the ones who don’t need the message. The straight people cheer and agree; the homosexuals never want to come back to church.
I love that perspective shift.
I’m different than I was a few years ago, where I was paranoid that I was responsible for everyone else. But now, I’m far more concerned that you know I love you and want to be there for you, like Jesus modeled, than I am if you are having sex, dressing immodestly, or gay.
I know speaking truth is important, so in accordance I told my friend that day I didn’t agree with her choice. But I didn’t argue with her or give her twelve reasons why she was wrong. I just listened—because I didn’t know what it felt like to hate her husband or want out of a marriage. And I’ve come to believe listening is often louder than words.
Are you making a point or a difference in the lives of those around you? Do you see churches as often falling into the category of proving good points week after week, but not making a difference in people’s lives?
If you aren’t a Christian, do think of Christians as people who are always against something?
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